Oleh Kotsyuba is a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic languages and literatures at Harvard, as well as the online editor of Krytyka, an intellectual journal in Ukraine. Nadiya Kravets is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ukrainian Politics and Society.

Together, they offer a fascinating and detailed review on the tense situation developing in the Crimea and Ukraine.

On March 1, 2014, the Russian parliament approved President Vladimir Putin’s request for military force in Ukraine. Putin justified the need for such intervention by pointing to the “extraordinary situation” in Ukraine and the “danger to the lives of Russian citizens, our compatriots, and the personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

But the actual military intervention began days earlier, after a plea from Sergey Aksyonov, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Crimea—voted into power by the quorum-less Crimean parliament at gunpoint.

Unidentified gunmen, who we now know to be special units of the Russian military, seized governmental buildings in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital. The scenario is sadly familiar to past Russian special operations in Moldova and Georgia aimed at breaking away parts of these post-Soviet countries.

In his request to the Federation Council, Putin did not identify any actual facts of ethnic tensions in Ukraine that could threaten the lives of Russian citizens in the Crimea, or in Ukraine generally. No acts of ethnic violence occurred that could possibly justify a foreign military intervention. Another popular perception is that Putin invaded Ukraine to protect Russian speakers from violence on the part of the far-right groups, or to ensure their rights for cultural and linguistic self-realization. These justifications are similarly ungrounded.

Considering the flimsy evidence for events that could reasonably have “provoked” Russian aggression, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine appears groundless and both legally and ethically untenable.

…But Russian aggression does not just threaten Ukrainian sovereignty—it also deeply threatens the nuclear non-proliferation regime that underpins modern international relations. In 1994, in a decision unprecedented for any existing nuclear-weapon state, Ukraine agreed to abandon its nuclear arsenal, at the time the world’s third largest. In exchange, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Russian Federation promised Ukraine security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that specifically promised to refrain from the use of force and to safeguard Ukraine’s borders.

Today, many political analysts miss the point that, if the international community fails to find effective ways to exert pressure on Russia to stop aggression against Ukraine, we could face the dismantling of the global system of security established since the end of the Cold War and the nullification of the greatest achievement of the U.S.-Russia “reset”—the international non-proliferation regime….

Future build-ups of conventional and nuclear arms would await us all, and so would the specter of another global war. In Crimea, more than Ukraine is at stake.